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Report of court-appointed panel biased, says India’s Art of Living foundation

STORY: Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) foundation on Thursday (April 20) termed green court-appointed panel’s report on damage to Yamuna floodplains as biased.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had appointed the panel to assess the damage done to the Yamuna floodplain in capital New Delhi, where the AOL foundation organised the massive World Culture Festival in March last year. The panel, in its report submitted on April 12, confirmed the damage to the river’s floodplain.

Foundation spokesman Kedar Desai said the panel had “pre-judged the issue by expressing an opinion by a cursory glance of 120 crores (USD 18.5 million) and now the same committee is under pressure to justify that case”.

The matter will now come up for hearing on May 9.

The seven-member panel, headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources, had in March recommended a penalty of around USD 18 million on the AOL foundation for the damages.

The report, submitted to the NGT on July 28 last year, said that the “ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened, totally devoid of water bodies or depressions, and almost completely devoid of any vegetation”.

In the report, the panel also claimed that AOL volunteers on the site had prevented the members from making any study and had forced them to retreat.

The ‘World Culture Festival’ was spread across 1,000 acres (400 hectares) on the banks of the Yamuna.

It featured a 7-acre stage for 35,000 musicians and dancers, dirt tracks and 650 portable toilets.

The Yamuna, a tributary of the Ganges and the source for much of Delhi’s water, is revered by many Hindus who bathe in it, despite high levels of industrial and human waste.

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